The Corner

Wasted Space at the Washington Compost

I slipped up this morning. I read Michael Gerson’s Washington Post column by mistake. Like a car wreck on the highway, I couldn’t avert my gaze once I started. I had resolved a long time ago never to read another thing from this poser, the author of many of George W. Bush’s flabbier formulations (especially “compassionate conservatism”), after he ostentatiously began using the noxious phrase “social justice” when he burst on the column scene a few years back. (For why no self-respecting conservative should ever use this term except with derision, see Hayek’s thorough smackdown in Law, Legislation, and Liberty. That would be Friedrich Hayek, Michael, not Salma.)  

Today Gerson’s superior moral sense is exercised by James O’Keefe’s selective editing of his Schiller/NPR video. The full video (which O’Keefe released, unlike, say, CBS, NBC, etc.), he thinks, exonerates Schiller from the impression O’Keefe’s short version conveyed. But as Ann Althouse points out, why then did NPR fire both Schillers instead of mounting the defense that Gerson would surely have been pleased to join? Althouse:

If O’Keefe is to blame, NPR should have defended Schiller. It didn’t. The full video was there. If it undercut O’Keefe’s edit, NPR could have reframed the narrative. Such an effort would have gotten plenty of play in the media. But NPR didn’t even try. Of course, O’Keefe put his video together in a strong way to make his point, but he exposed himself to a powerful counterattack… that didn’t happen. QED.

With his typical tendentiousness, Gerson writes: “The ethics of lying, of course, are complex.” Whoa! Aristotle better take notes. Keep that up, Michael, and you’ll snag yourself an assistant professorship in a state university somewhere to go along with your title as the Post’s house-broken “conservative.”

Gerson tries to make a distinction between O’Keefe’s tactics and the tactics of a major news network when they go undercover deceptively to nail commercial practices: “This may excuse posing as a worker at an unsanitary meat-packing plant or as a mental patient in an abusive asylum. But it is hardly a matter of life and death to expose the conventional liberalism of a radio executive.” Let’s see: When an unsanitary meat-packing plant sickens or kills people, it faces huge liability and sometimes goes out of business entirely. When NPR commits journalistic malpractice (which can also have real world effects — recall Newsweek’s bogus “flushed Koran” episode as an example — the Newsweek that is about to disappear from the face of the earth since it faces a market test unlike NPR), the consequence is . . . nothing. The shoddy meat-packing plant coerces no one into buying their products; I am coerced every day into supporting NPR with my tax dollars.  

Being nowadays a certified member of the MSM, Gerson is scornful of “citizen journalists” on the Internet. Yet it was “citizen journalists” on the Internet who took down Dan Rather for something a lot worse than deception. Life is too short to go back and check to see if Gerson ever registered any complaints about the journalistic practices of the MSM. I’ll just go with the null hypothesis here. Regardless, I’ll take the army of Internet citizen journalists over Gerson’s unending moral preening.

Steven F. Hayward is a visiting professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a fellow of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. He writes daily at Powerlineblog.com.

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